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Construction workers: What is silicosis?

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health and federal safety authorities have strict regulations when it comes to silica exposure in the workplace. The risk of contracting silicosis is a reality for all construction workers. But what is silicosis? Silicosis is a deadly disease that results when workers inhale the very fine crystalline silica particles which are present in the dust on most construction sites.

Silica dust accumulates in workers' lungs where it forms scar tissue, which limits the oxygen intake into the lungs. Silicosis develops gradually, and 15 to 20 years of exposure could lead to so much scar tissue that it can cause disability or even death. There is no cure for this disease, and it is crucial for workers to have occasional chest x-rays to ensure timely treatment upon the first signs of scar tissue in the lungs.

Initial symptoms include breath shortness that becomes progressively worse to include chest pain, and it could lead to respiratory failure. Other tell-tale signs include weight loss and fever. Silicosis compromises the immune system, increasing risks of tuberculosis and other lung infections. This is indeed a case where prevention is better than cure, and construction workers must insist on appropriate personal protective equipment.

Because it can take so many years of gradual development of silicosis, construction workers might only need financial assistance through the California workers' compensation insurance system after they have left the employment of the company at which they were exposed to crystalline silica dust. Proving eligibility for benefits could be challenging without the assistance of a workers' compensation attorney. A lawyer who has experience in fighting for the benefits to which workers are entitled can be a valuable asset for a worker who contracted an occupational disease.

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